Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka
I really enjoyed this. I rated this five slices of lemon pie.
I have read some interesting reviews that mention the ambiguous ending and a disturbing date rape scene. I would like to discuss. If you have read this book, read on and chime in. If you haven’t yet, you can keep reading at your own peril.
Quote: “… the whole place smelled like lemon and pie.” – in Chapter Two
We meet Arthur Opp who is a former professor of English who has not left his house in 10 years while eating and eating and eating himself into a weight estimated between 550 and 600 pounds. He has received contact from a former romantic interest; she was one of his students who had to quit school but became a pen pal who hadn’t corresponded in many years. Arthur decides that this contact should be pursued and makes strides to start ‘moving and improving’ if possible, and it was quite delightful to hear his fears about new acquaintances and situations that impact him on this ‘waking up’.
Another story line is told from the perspective of the son of Arthur’s former penpal/student/love interest. He’s a high school baseball jock hoping for a chance at the big leagues so he can avoid college. His mom is a mess, to put it bluntly.
Even at 80% when the reader KNOWS that these story lines MUST crash or converge or cross OR SOMETHING (all caps to demonstrate how passionately I was worried about this!), it was mind-boggling to speculate how this book would end! When and how would these story lines tie together?
And thus the ambiguity, because… they almost don’t, not really. But I liked it. I liked it very much, even after a few days of listening to the last word and thinking about it. Even after I listened to that last word and said out loud, “Is that IT?!”
I had feared this would be an ugly cry book. I did cry (gently) at about 95% through or so — When Arthur admits that you don’t get to pick your family and sometimes families suck. So sometimes you have to pick your own substitute family.
Now. The date rape. It didn’t bother me. I mean, sure, it BOTHERS me, and bother is too soft a word for this crime. It’s wrong, it’s scary and it’s wrong-&-scary. I get it. But this scene in this book was realistic and I wasn’t put in that place of objectively confronting my feelings on how the scene played out. (And truthfully, since this was audio, I swear I thought he stopped – maybe in my mind, he did and even though he admits that he sensed her being uncomfortable and he didn’t care, I thought I heard in the telling that he eventually DID stop. But I’m not going to go try and find that place in the audiobook and listen again. I’ll keep my version. Maybe he stopped not out of a conscience to suddenly respect the girl, so that is problematic, true.
I did think that he protested too much to his girlfriend later (thus, only confirming my version of the event, actually) but I want to say to those reviewers on goodreads who had a problem with the date rape scene being too casual and not dealt with in an appropriately severe manner consequentially to the perp, I GET IT.
But I don’t think it shows the author of being lackadaisical to the issue. I think she presented it just like it might happen. Life sucks. Books don’t always get to be the platform for a moral and a lesson. They get to be messy.
This book had charm and grit and attempts to find the light when all you can see is the dark. You don’t have to like the characters; yes, they were flawed. They were real.
I recommend this book. I recommend the audio.
I will read more by this author.